The last ten slick steps of the London underground led us up and out of the famous subway system’s grey shadow and into that of another; the humbling silhouette of Big Ben. The massive clock tower was the first thing we saw today (aside from the crowded tube) which seemed like a relief to finally lay our eyes on.
Yes it was raining; but this is London, so everything seemed normal as we set out to explore the city and walk in the footsteps of Mrs. Dalloway, which was also our related text for the day. We walked along the busy London streets towards the site where coronation and royal marriage actually happens, the famous Westminster Abbey. Our tour guide, Janet, seemed dwarfed by the sheer size of the ancient structure. From grand peaking arches which seem to reach up and grab the heavens, to the tombs where great figures like Edward the Conqueror and Queen Elizabeth I lie, the abbey housed it all and did it in a fantastic royal setting.
Janet led us around the cross-shaped building and gave the story behind all of the relics it held. Wandering around the great hall on our own just brought more wonder and awe. As we stood in the center of the pillars our tour guide pointed out several interesting gravestones and then told our group to look down and see that we were in fact standing on the grave marker of THE Isaac Newton, who lay about 5 feet from famous Charles Darwin.
The entire walk around the building resulted in this type of discovery and reaction. Even on the homestretch of our tour and when we began to trek back toward the entrance over our previous footsteps, Janet led us into what she referred to as the Poet’s Corner. More than one hundred different poets and writers share this wing of the Cathedral as memorial or headstone to their accomplishments during their career. Austen, Wordsworth, Blake, and Shakespeare, all authors we studied in class, all of whom have some sort of inscription or buff dedicated to them in this section of Westminster.
We exited the abbey, and shortly after entered the Cellarium where we had afternoon tea as a group and enjoyed the classic English meal before setting out on the same walk as Mrs. Dalloway through London. In our text Mrs. Dalloway walks from her home near the abbey through St. Jame’s park and on to other locations past it. We had the chance to recreate this first half of her walk before detouring to see Buckingham Palace.
As we have so many other times on this trip we got to walk directly where the story takes place, seeing the exact same things a character in our text would have. Experiencing the story first hand adds another level of enjoyment to the reading and gives a clearer and often times grander picture of what the author intended. We weren’t simply “sucked into the book” as some say after a good read. We weren’t just watching the events unfold, we were experiencing them. Our group was making their own assumptions and decisions about the world they were walking through, the world of Mrs. Dalloway.
We did get great pictures of the Palace, and get to see the guard outside who stubbornly refuses to moves. We then did get to see even more royalty, and even get pictures at platform 9 3/4 (from Harry Potter). None of which however compares to literally becoming a character in a story, and living a scene for yourself, that’s the experience that made today truly fascinating.